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Congressman Tim Murphy Introduces Mental Health Reform Bill

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Congressman Tim Murphy Introduces Mental Health Reform Bill

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Today, Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced a bill to reform the nation’s mental health delivery system. The legislation is the culmination of a year-long series of hearings Murphy held as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Committee in the wake of the tragic 2012 Newtown shooting.

The National Council applauded the bill’s inclusion of a demonstration program based on the bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act, writing in a letter to Murphy that the Excellence Act will “make an enormous contribution to expanding access to evidence-based community healthcare for children and adults with serious and persistent mental illnesses. This important measure will begin to reduce high hospital emergency room utilization among persons living with behavioral health conditions while easing the burden on hard-pressed law enforcement agencies in urban and rural areas. Perhaps most importantly, the Excellence Act demonstration will assist the Veterans Administration (VA) with serving the young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with service connected mental disorders including clinical depression and PTSD.”

Our letter also thanked Murphy for his inclusion of the Behavioral Health IT Act, another National Council legislative priority. By allowing mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities to receive incentive payments for their use of electronic health records, the Behavioral Health IT Act will help improve care quality and the integration of behavioral and primary care services.

The bill, which spans nearly 140 pages, touches on many parts of the mental health system. Some of its provisions have been long supported by the National Council, such as:

  • Authority for healthcare providers to bill Medicaid for mental health and primary care services provided to the same patient on the same day;
  • Reauthorization of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which funds suicide prevention activities within SAMHSA;
  • Reauthorization of the Mentally Ill Offenders Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA), which funds programs to support justice-involved individuals with mental health conditions;
  • A provision strengthening the “six protected classes” language in Medicare Part D and extending mental health prescription drug protections to Medicaid.

Other portions of the bill have already generated controversy in the mental health field, including proposed changes to SAMHSA funding and program authorizations, changes to the Community Mental Health Block Grant, new requirements for states to provide assisted outpatient treatment (also known as involuntary outpatient commitment), and changes to the federal HIPAA privacy law.

The introduction of the bill is the first step in a long process of discussion, debate, and potential future hearings or votes. The National Council has expressed our desire to work with Congressman Murphy throughout the legislative process to ensure that the bill fully meets the needs of mental health consumers, family members, and providers.

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